Hey there! This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge is hosted by Ann-Christine. The theme she has chosen is “surprise.” As I was thinking it over, this post about St. Fillans Church that I wrote a little over two years ago came to mind. Stepping over the threshold into that church was a true surprise indeed!
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to have such a strong reaction when I stepped through the beautiful wooden doors into the church. I have been in many old churches, but I gasped as I stepped inside. Its beauty, size, and the richness of its architecture were astonishing. It was like walking through a portal to another time. Except for a few minor, modern touches, one could almost hear the voices of the saints of old, raised in song, reverberating between those cold, stone walls.”
Original post: January 2018
Hi, friends. Today I would like to take you guys to St. Fillan’s Church, a lovely parish church in Aberdour, Scotland. Aberdour is a picturesque, seaside village located about forty miles to the northwest of Edinburgh in the East Neuk of Fife.
St. Fillan’s sits next to Aberdour Castle, just on the other side of a stone wall.
The morning that Mr. C and I set out for St. Fillan’s, it was quite chilly and gray, a day befitting the exploration of a Scottish church from the Middle Ages. Once we arrived, we parked our car and walked up the small road toward the castle and the church.
At the churchyard, cheery daffodils greeted us, as did beautiful, tired, time-worn headstones that one can only imagine must have toppled over at some point before being laid to rest against the old, stone wall.
I couldn’t help feeling that we were about to enter a sacred place; strangers with one foot in the present and one foot that was about to step deep into the past. This holy place of worship was never ours, and yet it felt familiar and welcoming.
Who Was St. Fillan?
St. Fillan was an 8th century Irish abbot. According to a 2016 Historic Environment Scotland publication, St. Fillan “was born…to noble and saintly parents. His mother was Kentigerna, daughter of a prince of Leinster. According to legend, he was born disfigured and thrown into a lake at his father’s behest. He was miraculously rescued by St. Ibar, who baptised him.” It goes on to say, “Fillan came to Scotland in his youth and lived for many years as a hermit before being elected abbot of Pittenweem. His left arm was reputed to glow while he wrote. Fillan died on 17 January in Glendochart in Perthshire, where he had retired to resume his life as a hermit.”
Saint Fillan’s Church is one of the earliest surviving churches in Scotland. It was built in the early 12th century by the de Mortimer family, who also owned neighboring Aberdour Castle. Portions of the church date back to 1140 (possibly even earlier), which makes it nearly 900 years old! Originally built in the shape of a narrow rectangle, St. Fillan’s was redesigned and altered throughout the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. By 1790, however, the church had fallen into disuse and had become a roofless ruin. And so it remained for more than a hundred years.
St. Fillan’s had a rebirth of sorts in the 1920s. Because of the vision and commitment of the local community in 1925, the church was lovingly restored and brought back to life. In July 1926, the community held the first service in well over a hundred years. What a day of rejoicing that must have been! St. Fillan’s continues to function as an active parish church today.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to have such a strong reaction when I stepped through the beautiful wooden doors into the church. I have been in many old churches, but I gasped as I stepped inside. Its beauty, size, and the richness of its architecture were astonishing. It was like walking through a portal to another time. Except for a few minor, modern touches, one could almost hear the voices of the saints of old, raised in song, reverberating between those cold, stone walls. Let’s take a quick peek inside.
St. Fillan’s has existed for some nine centuries and has served the spiritual needs of the people of Aberdour for over 600 years. May St. Fillan’s continue to be a blessing to its community and to all who happen to stumble upon this incredible treasure.
33 thoughts on “St. Fillan’s Church-Aberdour, Scotland”
I agree – it really is amazing.
Thanks for reading, Debbie. You must be getting really excited about your trip!
Hi Wendy, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I am getting really excited. It feels like it’s a long way away, but I know it’ll be here before I know it, so I need to start catching up on some of your other articles. Have a good night.
Gorgeous photos! And it’s so cool that it’s still an active parish…built in the fifteenth century!
Thank you, Ann. It was built in the 12th century, actually. Which makes it ever cooler! 🙂
I love old churches … especially in Europe.
Yes, me too!
Me too. India has quite a few noteworthy churches too.
I bet they are quite beautiful.
Very interesting and (to me) surprising.
Actuallly when i was there, on our tours, i went to 2. One was being restored and the worker i asked to take pictures of us was actually the Pastor Fernandez. He laughed it away and i was thrilled. I prayed in my traditional clothes and it felt like i was back home in South Africa.
Mind you, i could see many golden temple domes hidden in the hills.
That must have been a really neat experience. I know you live in South Africa now but did you grow up in India?
You painted a good mental picture. Thanks.
Well done the restorers, it’s wonderful when an old building like this is brought back to life instead of being left to fall apart. Your description of how you felt on stepping inside the building reminded me of how I felt when I did the same. It is a truly remarkable place, and quite unexpected in its majesty. I agree with you that it’s a special find.
Yes, they certainly did a wonderful job with its restoration. I read that the building sustained a fire in December 2013. It had to close for repairs but reopened in 2014. Thankfully the damage wasn’t worse. I’d like to go back again one day. I wonder if they’d let us join them for a church service!
Another great experience of getting closer to those icons of the past. For people like us who can appreciate their presence is an opportunity of a lifetime. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your upcoming travel to Florida. Will look forward to see your future adventures … as you will see ours.
Thank you! I look forward to reading about your adventures. 🙂
What a lovely church! It’s impressing how you convey your enthusiasm for Scotland to your readers! I love this country too!
Thank you, Reni, for that awesome compliment!
I am in awe of old churches like this and love those old graveyards. I always think of all the people who touched those stones and walked those paths over the years. A very special place and your pictures are wonderful.
I am too, Darlene. There is so much atmosphere that really stirs the imagination and the soul.
Nope. Born in SA but India has stolen a chunk of my heart.
I imagine India is quite a spectacular place.
Absolutely. Rich. Poor financially.
A the hearts r good though.
Such a beautiful place you live! Very blessed!
Oh, I wish I lived in Scotland! Maybe one day I will. But currently I live in VA. 🙂
The ancient buildings over there amaze and delight. We simply have no comparison here.
You are right. We think Thomas Jefferson’s home is old!
What a lovely place. Thank you for chronicling it for us.
Great structure. Great post.
Thanks! Appreiciate it.